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278                                                                                                                       B. POLEVOI
to his mother's vexation, returned home all covered with
snow, his legs trembling with weariness.
But next morning he was back on the ice again. He
now moved with greater confidence, did not fall so often
and, taking a run, could slide several metres; but try as
he would he could make no further progress, although he
remained on the ice until dusk.
But one day—Alexei had never forgotten that cold,
blizzardy day when the wind drove the powdery snow
over the polished ice—he made a lucky move and, to his
own surprise, he kept on gliding, more and more swiftly
and confidently with every round. All the experience that
he had imperceptibly acquired when falling and hurting
himself and repeating his attempts again and again, all
the little knacks and habits he had gained, seemed sud-
denly to have amalgamated into one, and he now worked
his legs and feet, feeling that his whole body, his whole
boyish, fun-loving, persevering being, was exulting and
filling with pleasurable confidence.
This was what happened to him now. He flew many
times with great perseverance, trying to merge himself
with his machine again, to feel it through the metal and
leather of his artificial feet. At times he thought that he
was succeeding, and this cheered him immensely. He tried
a stunt, but he at once felt that his movement lacked
confidence, the plane seemed to shy and struggle to get
out of hand, and feeling the bitterness of waning hope
he resumed his dull training routine.
But one thawing day in March, when in that one
morning the ground at the airfield suddenly became
dark and the porous snow shrank so much that the planes
left deep furrows in it, Alexei rose into the air in his
fighter plane. A side wind blew his plane off its course
and he was obliged to keep on correcting it. In bringing
the plane back into its course, he suddenly felt that it was
obedient to him, that he could feel it with his whole
being. This feeling came like a flash of lightning and at
first he would not believe it. He had suffered too much
disappointment to believe his luck at once.
He veered sharply and deeply to the right; the ma-
chine was obedient and precise. He felt exactly what he
had felt as a boy on the dark, crisp ice in the tiny inlet